At the Tokyo Olympics, heat and tennis do not mix

Tokyo Olympic Games 2021dossier

Since the start of the events, many players, exhausted by the very high temperatures and humidity, have complained about the playing conditions. The latest, Medvedev, who, despite qualifying for the quarter-finals, suffered greatly on Wednesday.

The courts of Ariake Park in Tokyo are on fire. The high humidity levels prevent breathing and transform the Olympic site into a sauna or even a furnace. The victory that Daniil Medvedev snatched Wednesday from Fabio Fognini (6-2, 3-6, 6-2) took place in these intense weather conditions, with a temperature of around 40 ° C and a particularly high humidity level.

The second world player staggered, called on his physiotherapist. When the chair umpire asks him if he’s feeling well, his answer is clear: “I can finish the game, but I can die. If I die, who will take responsibility? ” After losing the second set (3-6), he left the court to take a ten-minute break in the locker room. The Russian had already suggested to the organizers, during his first match, to postpone the tennis events later in the day to limit the effects of the dodger: “I think that like in Mexico, the matches should perhaps start at 6 pm, because the heat is much less strong”. “Still alive”, he posted on Instagram on Wednesday after qualifying for the quarterfinals.

Others did not have the chance to qualify. The Spanish Paula Badosa, 29th in the world, had to give up during her quarter-final following a heat-related discomfort. Defeated in the first set in thirty-nine minutes, the exhausted Spaniard left the court in a wheelchair, securing a qualification in the semifinals, to her opponent, the Czech Markéta Vondrousová, who fell the day before the Japanese Naomi Osaka.

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Djokovic raises his voice

Several players have already raised the tone since the start of the competition, to complain about the stifling heat. Novak Djokovic, world number 1 and favorite of the Olympic tournament, which could lead to a golden grand slam (the four major tournaments of the season and an Olympic title), declared after his victory in the first round on Saturday against the Bolivian Hugo Dellien, under 32 ° C: “The conditions are really difficult […]. And with the added humidity, it’s really brutal. Especially since the hard courts absorb all that, and the heat remains locked in. ” Alongside Medvedev, he pleaded for the matches to start later.

Gilles Simon, released in the first lap, had already complained in the columns of the team extreme conditions in which players must evolve in Tokyo. “We recover less quickly, the legs move less quickly. An exchange and our heart goes up very high right away. As soon as there is a rally of five or six strikes, we have the impression of having played thirty minutes, with your head spinning ”, explained the French veteran before deploring the gap between the organizers, and the players confronted with the reality on the ground.

Another complaint, the rest time for side changes of only one minute, a rule introduced in Australia at the beginning of the year. “The fact that we only have one minute for side changes is a joke, Medvedev added this weekend. If you ask 200 players, 195 will say the same. ” The International Tennis Federation has taken this into account, instituting a heat protocol last Saturday which extends the recovery time to one and a half minutes, as usually takes place in other tournaments. There is also a ten-minute “cool break” between the second and third sets (the Olympic tournament is played for the best of three sets). These measures apply when the temperature exceeds 30.1 ° C. The federation also indicated that it was able to postpone certain matches in the event of too high temperatures. No concrete effect for the moment.

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